We all make mistakes. I, for one, love making mistakes. I’ve learned some of my most important lessons through making them, and I know I will make many more -- I honestly can’t wait to make them.
What I can wait for, though, is going through self-inflicted heartbreak again.
One particular mistake I made brings me here. It was the way I handled a romantic relationship and my heart. My relationship with — let's call him Nick — Nick went the way they do for a lot of young men and women; we played a game.
The two of us were MVP players in the power game of "whoever cares less, wins." I dumped him. Point: Emily. Well, here I am, six months later, still harping on it. Minus five points: Emily.
Like many of my other Millennial counterparts, romantic relationships have never really been my priority. I’ve honestly never really been good at them or particularly liked them, either. So, when one naturally, yet unexpectedly, came my way, I was just about as prepared for it as the Titanic was prepared to hit an iceberg.
We clicked immediately and the connection and chemistry were strong to a point I didn't know existed. I’m young and I’ve had one significant relationship before — what the hell did I know? So, when people said cliché things like, “We had an instant connection,” I was quick to call BS and vomit in my mouth.
While I still roll my eyes at those comments, now it’s mostly out of jealousy, rather than disbelief.
I made multiple mistakes throughout my relationship that I now know not to make again with a man for whom I care so deeply. These are mistakes to which I’m sure a lot of our generation can relate.
From day one to the very end, I dictated my relationship the way I would dictate a business deal, a deal out of which I had to emerge victorious.
Here's what I wish I did differently:
Mistake 1: “Hanging Out” Gray Area
Nick and I started “hanging out” during the summer. That, right there, was mistake numero uno.
Hanging out is a term men and women our age use to cope with their fear of commitment, while committing enough to hold on to a romantic partner.
Like I said, I knew from the beginning I felt pretty damn strongly for him, so I should have just admitted this and *gasp!* actually dated the guy. It would have set the pace for the rest of our relationship and we may have avoided all the gray area BS.
If I admitted that, he would win. And I loathe losing. So, we hung out.
Mistake 2: Defining What You Want And Are
Mistake number two came when we started getting serious. After a few months, it became pretty clear from our three-times-a-week sleepovers that it was a little more than “hanging out.” This brought us to the "seeing other people" talk.
I should have been straight up and told him that I wasn’t seeing anyone else, had no intention to see anyone else and would be very happy if he didn’t want to, either. But, then he’d have all the power to determine what we were doing, and I would be the one who cared more. I didn’t want to admit that to myself, let alone to him.
Instead, I was “totally cool with whatever” and lucked out that he wasn’t seeing anyone else and didn’t want to either. #Winning.
However, that didn’t mean he was comfortable with the situation, specifically label-wise. It seems that for our generation, being called a boyfriend is the equivalent to being engaged, or even married. If we don’t have to commit, we won’t.
Carefully constructed phrases, like “a girl I’m seeing” are much more preferable. That is, for a certain amount of time. This once again left too much gray area for what our relationship was to him versus what it was to me.
It made outings with friends awkward when one of them would slip and refer to me as Nick’s girlfriend. At the time, labeling didn’t matter to me because I was confident in what we had. Looking back, it only allowed for more leeway when it came to expectations.
Mistake 3: Snooping
So, bad girlfriend alert: I went snooping through his Facebook messages. I wasn’t his “girlfriend,” though, so I guess it's actually just "bad person alert." However, this is what caused the end of our relationship.
Whether you’re doing the snooping or being snooped, it just presents far too many ways to lose trust on both ends. If you feel the need to snoop, there’s clearly some trust issue you must address and about which you must be up front.
If you’re hiding something that can cause issues, there exists the reasoning for the trust issues. Trust needs to be a discussion before it leads to snooping, no matter how tempting snooping can be.
If I really felt he was being unfaithful in our gray-area, non-boyfriend/girlfriend relationship, I should have confronted him about it without searching for an issue and self-destructing.
Mistake 4: Ignoring Hidden Feelings
Through my snooping, I found that he told his good friend that he was “seeing this girl [me] and a few others.” I was livid. I had been gone for winter break for over a month and had just gotten back, giving him the prime opportunity for the “few others.”
I had already decided, before addressing him about it, that I was dumping him. All of my feelings for him flew out the window and logic took over. I don’t get cheated on, no matter how I feel about “the guy I’m seeing.”
He claimed that he had just said that to “keep up his reputation.” I actually believed his twisted, douchey response; however, if I had accepted that, worked through it and stayed with him, I would ultimately give up my power. My forgiveness would have been proof that I cared more and he could care less while still having me.
This is something I regret. I don’t necessarily regret dumping him; I regret not considering my feelings for him more than my fear of losing the power dynamic.
Now, I call him an “ex-boyfriend.” Now, I realize it was actual love. Instead of living in a blissful romantic relationship, my will to win the game led me to make a mistake I can’t take back and from which I can only learn.
The moral of the story is that relationships and dating are not games, so don’t try to play. Your heart will thank you in the long run.
Photo Courtesy: We Heart It